Perspectives of Black South African Managers Regarding Advancement into Senior Corporate Management Positions: Implications for Human Resource Development


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Virginia Tech


South Africa (SA) is undergoing a transformation of governance from apartheid to a new country of inclusion and involvement of previously disenfranchised groups. The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) is as an official document to guide efforts at nation-building. Human resource development (HRD) is a key component. As used in this study, HRD is broadly conceptualized as the deployment of human resources for the purposes of nation- building in SA. Consequently, an integral part of the program is the role of adult learning in this process.

Literature indicates that blacks experience slower rates of moving up the corporate ladder, especially at senior management levels, and therefore they are not represented according to their proportion. Missing is the significant understanding of the experience and perception of black managers themselves.

The purpose of this study was to gain some understanding of what black SA managers perceive to be their limited opportunities related to their corporate career. An additional aim was to determine the perceived impact that corporations and government policies, programs and legislation might play in addressing this problem.

A survey was employed and descriptive statistics were used to generate data. A sample of 488 black managers listed in the SA Directory of Black Managers and the Executive 200 was surveyed.

The results provide an understanding of factors black managers perceived as problems that impact them personally, and also have implications for corporations as well as the implementation of the RDP and therefore nation-building. This study demonstrated that black managers perceive personal, corporate- and government-related factors as serious problems contributing to their lack of corporate career success. These were: lack of work experience; lack of planning for career development of blacks; cronyism; lack of appropriate mentors for black managers; insufficient number of black managers to fill the positions available; their own lack of technical competence; and lack of government enforcement of affirmative action. Additionally, the insight provided by the findings in this study suggest that in a situation where they were experiencing difficulty moving up the corporate ladder, the most likely action black mangers would take would be to leave their companies.



corporate management, black managers, human resource development, Nation-building, black advancement